Splatting their way to the top

The winning team from this year’s annual Hay River summer paintball tournament. Front row from left, Colin Parsons and Ryan Heron. Back row: Desmond St. Jean and Karl Lenoir, (missing Daniel Abram).
– Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Numbers may have been down from last year’s paintball tournament in Hay River’s old town, but spirits were definitely up.

With a total of 18 entrants, less than half of last year’s attendance, the format of this year’s tournament took on a per game rather than per point system. Players from the ages of 12 to 30 came out on July 29 to splatter each other in paint and engage in some practice games afterwards to help others build their skills.

The Wagon Burners took three victories winning themselves the title for this year’s tournament. Team Rapture took second and the Kentucky Fried Brotherhood took third.

The Wagon Burners have been the only team appearing on the roster consistently each year since the tournament began three years ago. They’ve won every time.

Co-organizer and captain of the winning team, Ryan Heron, said that the members on his team haven’t always been consistent, but they’ve always been dedicated.

“It’s like anything, if you love it, it’s easy,” he said. “As for the skill level, the biggest thing is that the guys who really like to play are the ones who succeed.”

And they all express love for the emerging sport, if only through their in-depth knowledge of lingo, mostly referring to paintball versions of foul play.

Wiping is when an opposing team member inconspicuously wipes paint off their clothing to make it appear as if they weren’t shot – once you’re shot, you’re supposed to leave the field.

Pod-drops are also a no-no. If you have a surplus of paintballs, have just been shot but have a teammate still in play, you can’t nonchalantly drop you paint pods for them to pick up on the field.

Bunking is shooting a person at too close range.

“Bunking is kind of like a drive-by on foot,” said Heron.

Recreation programmer Emma Harper said that while she knew three teams were away on holidays this year, she was hoping to get more teams from out of town. She said that’s now a goal for next year’s tournament.

“Every year we keep building it,” she said. “It takes time.”

Heron and a few players also run practices and games in K’atl’odeeche First Nation throughout the summer and are planning to take their equipment to smaller communities in the NWT this summer. After the tournament, they took a 14-on-five game to give other players a chance to build skills.

“That can get intense,” said Heron. “You’re in the moment and it’s fight or flight. But while you’re doing that your skills are developing fast.”

There will be two more paintball events this summer; one is tentatively scheduled on Aug. 19 at the old town field.

– by Angele Cano